Written by Father Vincent Guest
If you are driving through the towns of Somerdale, Hi-Nella, Stratford, Laurel Springs, Lindenwold, Clementon and Pine Hill this summer, do not be surprised to see signs on lawns and in gardens promoting Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish and Shrine. The signs are part of the parish’s evangelization efforts.
Pope Francis and Bishop Dennis Sullivan are reminding us of our call to be missionary disciples. We do not have to go to the far regions of the world to spread the Gospel and saving message of Jesus to be a missionary. We are called to be missionaries right here, in our own parishes and communities. We are called to share the message of Jesus in our homes, schools, neighborhoods and workplaces.
Thus far, over 100 signs have been distributed throughout the parish and more have been ordered. The message is simple and the signs are available in English and Spanish: All our Loved … All are Welcome; Todos son Amados … Todos son Bienvenidos. As Catholics we are not accustomed to knocking on doors and speaking about our faith, therefore the lawn signs are a form of “passive street evangelization.” We hope and pray that a neighbor or relative will see the sign and ask about it. It will provide an opening for parishioners to discuss our love for our Catholic faith and our parish. It may provide an opportunity to invite a neighbor or friend to Mass or to a parish event. If one person returns to church after being away for many years, then it is worth all the effort.
Lawn signs are just one part of the Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish Evangelization Plan. This past year many parishioners participated in a program produced by the Paulist Fathers called The Journey. The Journey is available in English and Spanish. It is a program that helps you encounter the love of Christ through the Gospels and beautifully produced short videos. Parishioners loved it and we plan to offer The Journey again this fall for those who could not attend.
The Pastoral Council and Evangelization Team are also working on a home visitation plan. As a native Philadelphian, I remember the block collection that took place every year in my home parish. Ours will not be a block collection, but an opportunity to visit the homes of registered parishioners to let them know that the church is there for them and that they are loved and that true peace and joy can only come through an encounter with Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior.
Clergy and parishioners acting as missionary disciples in our parish will not work alone. We will be accompanied by our patroness, Our Lady of Guadalupe. Saint John Paul II called the Virgin of Guadalupe the Star of the New Evangelization. Through Our Lady’s appearance at Tepeyac the Gospel message of her Son was brought to millions of people in the Americas. As sons and daughters of Mary we continue to be guided by her protection as we invite our community to a deeper communion with Christ and his church.
Of course, we recognize that evangelization is much more than a lawn sign, but this small step is a beginning and I pray helps parishioners to recognize that all parish activities and all parishioners are called to proclaim the good news of Jesus to the world, beginning with their family and neighbor. Our Lady of Guadalupe, Patroness of the Americas and Patroness of the New Evangelization, pray for us.
Father Vincent Guest is pastor of Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish Shrine, Lindenwold.